What is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week?

Updated: May 19



This week (2nd to the 3rd May 2022) is all about encouraging women to open up about their experience with mental health during and after pregnancy. The organisation that leads this campaign is by The Perinatal Mental Health Partnership UK1 who are the founders of the UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week .


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It is an opportunity to speak, help and connect with people if you are suffering and a reminder to reach out to pregnant and new parents who may need your support. This is an annual week long campaign dedicated to bringing awareness to and talking about mental health problems during and after pregnancy.

The campaign aims to make more people aware of maternal mental health by highlighting to them all the information and support available.




WILL MY BABY BE TAKEN AWAY?


Sadly, this thought is what stops so many parents and family members from seeking help and support. A staggering 20% of women who experience perinatal mental health illness feel unable to seek treatment due to perceived stigma.

Most mental health problems can be managed through medications and/or talking therapies. This is why it is so important that mothers and fathers know that there is support available to them.

During pregnancy and after the birth of a child, women are at a higher risk of experiencing mental health problems.

Did you know that as many as 1 in 5 women develop a mental illness during their pregnancy or in the first year after birth?





Perinatal mental health services are there to focus on the prevention, detection and management of mental health problems that occur during the perinatal period - pregnancy and the first year after birth.

Specialised perinatal mental health services are provided by the NHS, whilst health visitors have a specific remit to assess maternal mental health and refer to support services. There is also a contractual requirement for GPs to offer a maternal postnatal consultation at six to eight weeks after birth which should focus on the mother’s physical and mental health2

Suicide is a leading cause of maternal deaths in the UK within a year after childbirth.




We need to work together to change this!

Speaking up about your mental health isn’t something which comes naturally to everyone. Though, thankfully, with campaigns such as this, we are all helping to raise awareness of maternal mental health and break down stigmas.

Depression and anxiety are the most common conditions women face with 12% experiencing depression during pregnancy, 13% experiencing anxiety during pregnancy, with many women experiencing both.

15-20% of women will also experience either or both of these conditions in the first year after birth.

Around 2 in 1,000 women who have given birth will be affected by postpartum psychosis, which is a serious mental illness which can include symptoms of:

  • mania (high mood),

  • hallucinations,

  • delusions,

  • confusion and depression and

  • in extreme cases there is a risk of suicide. It’s estimated that ¼ of all maternal deaths are related to mental health problems.




The most common mental health problems experienced during pregnancy and after birth are anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 4

Women experiencing maternal mental health problems: 5

  • Postpartum psychosis: 2 per 1,000

  • Serious mental ill health: 2 per 1,000

  • Severe depressive illness: 30 per 1,000

  • Mild-moderate depressive illness and anxiety states: 100-150 per 1,000

  • PTSD: 30 per 1,000

  • Adjustment disorders and distress: 150-300 per 1,000.

What Does Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week Do? This campaign is to raise awareness in the public as well as in health professionals and advocate for women affected by these conditions.

Women reported experiencing low rates of referral, long waits, regional variation of care, a lack of continuity of care, misunderstanding and stigma

The mental health of women’s partners is also often neglected by healthcare professionals and services6


Did you know that approximately 10% of all new fathers worldwide experience postnatal depression?

The campaign aims to make more people aware of maternal mental health by highlighting to them all the information and support available.






The UK has a rate of 2.3 deaths by suicide per 100 000 maternities during or up to the first year after pregnancy, and this is therefore considered a leading cause of late maternal death in the UK7

This years campaign has the theme is ‘The Power of Connection’ and each day will have a different focus:

  • Monday 2nd May- What is Maternal Mental Health? What are the different illnesses which affect people at this time?

  • Tuesday 3rd May- Smashing The Stigma. Did you know that around 20% of women who experience perinatal mental health illness feel unable to seek treatment due to perceived stigma? We need to work together to change this!

  • Wednesday 4th May- World maternal mental health day, Stronger Together!

  • Thursday 5th May- Healthcare Professionals share helpful and informative information on perinatal mental health

  • Friday 6th May- ‘Perinatal Positivity Pot’ working together to help remove the barriers that families face when trying to access services and support.

  • Saturday 7th May- Support for all. Allowing access to support available for families

  • Sunday 8th May- Day of Reflection

What Is Maternal Mental Health?

Maternal mental health, often referred to as perinatal mental health, are mental health problems which occur during pregnancy and or in the first year after childbirth. This is something which affects 20% of mums.

This is not to be confused with ‘the baby blues’.

Feeling sad or having the ‘baby blues’ after giving birth is common, but when these feelings last for more than two weeks, this may be a sign of depressive illness

However, depression at this time has an impact not only on the mother, but also on the mother-infant relationship and on the child’s cognitive and emotional development. For this reason, it is particularly important to get seek treatment for postpartum depression.

Factors that may contribute to perinatal depression are hormonal and physical changes resulting from pregnancy and childbirth, and the responsibilities of caring for the baby. Having had a previous episode of depression increases the risk for postpartum depression and symptoms are often already present during pregnancy. This is why it is so essential that healthcare providers at each stage of a womans pregnancy are asking the appropriate questions to ensure these symptoms are not overlooked.

Perinatal mental health should be taken just as seriously as any other mental illness and not just passed off as being hormonal. When not treated it can have significant long lasting effects on the woman, the child and the family.

The mental health problems that pregnant women or new mums can face, vary but can include:

  • Postnatal depression

  • Postnatal psychosis

  • Perinatal obsessive compulsive disorder

  • Depression and anxiety

  • Eating disorders

  • Low mood

Did you know that new mothers who suffer with leakage issues after birth have a 50% increased chance of developing postnatal depression?


People suffering with pelvic floor problems have much higher rates of depression and anxiety than the general population. Current statistics state that 50% of women have weak pelvic floor issues (I know that this is a lot higher because many are too ashamed to talk about it and see help and support). Statistics like this really speak for themselves and this is why it’s so important we bring this education into schools and to break down the taboo of talking about these problems.

Our Secret Whispers Kegel Kit helps women to strengthen their pelvic floor and they are designed to engage the correct pelvic floor muscles.


What Is The Importance Of Maternal Mental Health?

The exact cause of maternal mental health isn’t completely clear but there are some factors which come into play which may make you more likely to have postnatal depression. A history of mental health problems or history of mental health problems when pregnant, a lack of support (no family friends or partner), a difficult relationship with the baby’s father or if one of your family members (mum or sister) has had mental health problems during or after childbirth.

Maternal mental health can completely overwhelm you. Women are worried about what telling someone might mean for them and their baby.

It is common for women to not want to tell anyone about their struggles through fear that their baby might be taken from them or that they’ll have to leave their home.

Thankfully, this is rare and most women can make a full recovery at home, with their family with the support and supervision of a health professional. Women’s mental health problems are also made worse by the guilt and confusion women get about feeling this way, and experiencing things like not wanting to hold their baby.



How Does Maternal Mental Health Affect Child Development? The effect of poor parental mental health on children is shown to have a huge impact on the child's mental health too

Maternal mental health has been linked to worsened mental and physical health through childhood and the children are more likely to show behavioural problems for instance behaving poorly in school.

GP postnatal check - Since 1 April 2020 it has been a contractual requirement for general practitioners to offer a maternal postnatal consultation at six to eight weeks after birth which should focus on a review of the mother’s physical and mental health and general wellbeing. This should be an additional appointment to that of the baby’s health check. 2

Therefore, it is essential that GPs and all healthcare practitioners who are in contact with pregnant and postpartum mothers are adequately trained with the correct procedure to access and ask the appropriate questions. Knowledge of what support and specialist services are available too to ensure that the mothers physical and mental wellbeing is not overlooked.





Useful links

Seeking prompt help is important. Support and information are available via one of the numbers below:

  • Samaritans – 116 123 (24 hrs a day)

  • Mind – 0300 123 3393 (9am – 6pm Mon-Fri)

  • NHS Choices – 111 (24 hrs a day)

  • PANDAS Foundation Phone: 0843 2898 401 (9am-8pm, 7 days a week) Email: info@pandasfoundation.org.uk Website: www.pandasfoundation.org.uk The PANDAS Foundation provides support services for everyone affected by perinatal mental health issues (including perinatal depression and psychosis), via the phone, online communities and in person support groups. It also provides support for partners affected by caring for someone with perinatal mental health issues.

Family, parenting and relationships Family Action

Phone: 020 7254 6251 Email: info@family-action.org.uk

Website: www.family-action.org.uk

Family Action transforms lives by providing practical, emotional and financial support to those who are experiencing poverty, disadvantageand social isolation across England. They aim to strengthen families and communities by building skills and resilience. Their support services include a focus on parental mental health issues, including issues such as perinatal depression.


Other blogs you may find of interest that we have done:

“I don’t want to hold my baby” Postnatal Depression

References:

1. The Perinatal Mental Health Partnership UK

2. NHS – Your 6 week postnatal check

3. Royal College of Psychiatrists. (2016). Parental mental illness: The impact on children and adolescents. Information for parents, carers and anyone who works with young people.

4. Ayers, S., & Shakespeare, J. (2015). Should perinatal mental health be everyone's business? Primary Health Care Research and Development, 16(4), 323-325.

5. Perinatal mental health government publication

6. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

7. NPEU


#maternalmhmatters #thepowerofconnection #StrongerTogether #maternalmentalhealth #maternalmentalhealthawarenessweek #mmhaw #mmhaw22 #perinatalmentalhealth #postnataldepression #antenataldepression #Postpartumpsychosis #Postpartumdepression #postnatalanxiety #perinatalocd

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I am a multi-award-winning women's healthcare advocate.

 

I am extremely passionate about women's healthcare and mental health.

Did you know that - You are more likely to meet someone about to attempt suicide than about to have a heart attack? Everyone should know what to do.

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